Community foundations: the asset-based development of an Australian community organisation as a foundational source for sustainable community development

Bryant, S 2006, Community foundations: the asset-based development of an Australian community organisation as a foundational source for sustainable community development, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Community foundations: the asset-based development of an Australian community organisation as a foundational source for sustainable community development
Author(s) Bryant, S
Year 2006
Abstract This study seeks to uncover the opportunities and challenges in building the foundations for sustainable community development at the local level, by enhancing the capacity of a community organisation. Challenging the traditional needs-based focus of community development, the research builds from the work of Kretzmann and McKnight by applying an asset-based approach to both community development and capacity building of community organisations. This study thus shifts the focus of community development away from its traditional application on "disadvantaged" communities, to encourage social planning and development in a socially and economically diverse inner urban neighbourhood in Australia. The study describes the organisational development experiences of a community centre confronting the challenges of moving from the traditional deficit model of community development to an a sset- or strengths-based approach that is more in keeping with the philosophy of the sustainable communities' movement.

The study follows the experiences of the community centre through three cycles of action research. Two key outcomes were achieved as a result of this experience, this includes:

• A shift in thinking and practice in the organisation from a needs-based paradigm to include an asset-based perspective.
• A shift in the strategic priorities of the organisation.

The analysis of the project outcomes and these influencing factors enabled a range of conclusions to be drawn including:

1. Local community organisations such as community centres are capable of playing a more prominent role in supporting comprehensive community initiatives for sustainable development. However, the importance of these organisations as a foundational infrastructure has been undervalued and their potential contribution misunderstood. More research and development is required to change this evaluation at all levels of operation.

2. Secondly, improving the role and strategic direction of such organisations in Australia needs to be reviewed to better understand their potential contribution to sustainable development at the local level, as well as their future purpose.

3. Thirdly, the capacity building of the Centre through an asset-based perspective proved a useful tool in developing it and the early signs were that it was moving towards an expanded role at the local level (although threats regarding the organisational sustainability of the community centre were also evident during the project).

4. Fourthly, governance and leadership issues must be addressed in developing these organisations due to their limited capability to staff projects beyond the bare bones.

5. Fifthly, the knowledge about strategy development and implementation is limited in such organisations and, I would argue, among local development professions themselves.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Community development -- Australia -- Case studies
Community-based social services -- Australia -- Case studies
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